By Duane Ranger
Cambridge-based junior driver Benjamin Butcher might have been living in the shadow of his father David and older brother Zachary in recent seasons, but this year he has stamped his mark as a quality reinsman.
This was evident at his home track on Thursday night when the 22-year-old registered a double on the eight-race card.
Butcher drove the Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins-trained Somewhereinbrooklyn ($3.90 favourite) to win the fourth event by three-quarters-of-a-length, and then three races later got the Steve Telfer-trained Ivana Flybye ($4.10 favourtie) home by one-and-three-quarter-lengths.
Employed by his father David in Cambridge, Butcher is now just one win shy of his personal best season of 19 wins, which he achieved in the 2013-2014 season, from 261 starters. He also placed 42 times that year and banked $140,091 in stakes.
With five months left in the current season, the former St John's College student is the North Island’s leading junior driver and is second to Matt Anderson (25 wins) on the national table. Butcher has 18 wins, 33 placings and $197,628 in stakes from just 135 drives and his career best UDR strike-rate of 0.2395 speaks for itself.
"Sure I'd like to win the New Zealand junior drivers' premiership but it's hard up here. They get more drives down south, but if I'm close heading into July, I'd like to give it a crack," Butcher said.
"That would be a real honour to win that," he added.
So, what does Butcher put his recent success this season down to?
“I’m getting a better class of horse to drive and people are starting to believe in me. I owe a lot to the likes of Steve Telfer and Stonewell Stud. They have been a great help and horses like Ivana Flybye are going really well,” Butcher said.
“They have done a couple of things with her gear and she has really taken to it. The other guy (Somewhereinbrooklyn) goes well too, but he doesn’t have the same high speed as the filly.”
He said both his father and brother had been a great help to him both on and off the track.
“I’ve still got a long way to go to get even close to them. They are two of the best going around, but what they say is always a great help to me. You never want to stop listening to people like that,” he said.
“I’m just fortunate they are family. They tell me when I’ve done well and they aren’t afraid to tell me where I’ve gone wrong.”
Results from last night's meeting at Cambridge Raceway were:
Race 1: The Tim Vince trained FRANCO CALIPH (9 B g P-Forty-Seven - Compulsive Franco (by Falcon Seelster) Sheryl Wigg.
Race 2: The Brian & Gareth Hughes trained IDEAL HOLIDAY (3 B g American Ideal - Dream Holiday (by Dream Away(USA) Maurice McKendry (MNZM).
Race 3: The Ray Green trained SEA OF GOLD (3 B f Bettor's Delight - Hill Of Gold (by In The Pocket) Zachary Butcher.
Race 4: The Frank Cooney & Tate Hopkins trained SOMEWHEREINBROOKLYN (4 B g Somebeachsomewhere - Saddle Ridge (by Artsplace) Benjamin Butcher (j).
Race 5: The Todd Macfarlane trained and driven REAL EAGLE (3 B g American Ideal - Real Wings (by Badlands Hanover).
Race 6: The Todd Mitchell trained and driven AMANDA'S SPUR (6 B g Pegasus Spur - Amanda's Gem (by Sundon).
Race 7: The Steve Telfer trained IVANA FLYBYE (3 B f American Ideal - Cathy's Flybye (by Caprock) Benjamin Butcher (j).
Race 8: The Dave & Clare McGowan trained JUST ANYTHING (3 B f Majestic Son - Scusi Boyz (by Brylin Boyz) Andre Poutama.
Top Stallion: American Ideal 3 wins.
Top Driver: Benjamin Butcher 2 wins.
Top Junior Driver: Benjamin Butcher 2 wins.
Top Trainer: Eight races and eight winning trainers.
Extensive results can be viewed here.